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The Highest-Paid Surgical Tech

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Surgical technologists are part of a team in the operating room that includes surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists and other professional and technical staff. Although not the highest-paid members of the team, they have significant responsibility for protecting the patient from infections and promoting surgeons’ efficiency. Several factors affect a surgical tech's pay.

About Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists are unlicensed support personnel who scrub or circulate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The surgical tech isn't an independent worker and works under supervision of a surgeon. Surgical techs may have an associate degree or a technical certificate, depending on the educational program they attend and the requirements of the state in which they practice. They prepare patients and the operating room for surgery, assist the surgeon by handing her tools, equipment and dressings while maintaining sterility and clean the operating room after the operation.

Work Settings

The average annual salary for surgical techs in 2012 was $43,480, according to the BLS. The most common work settings and industries for this occupation are general medical and surgical hospitals, physicians’ offices, outpatient care centers, dentists’ offices and employment services. Of these, surgical techs in employment services earned the highest salary, at $48,340. Of the health care settings in the group, the highest wages were in outpatient care centers, with an average annual salary of $45,560.

Top Pay

The highest-paying work settings and industries for surgical technologists weren't necessarily in health care and in some cases didn't employ large numbers of surgical techs, according to the BLS. Specialty hospitals and employment services each employed 1,350 surgical techs in 2012 and paid salaries of $48,060 and $48,340, respectively. Colleges, universities and professional schools paid $49,620, and individual and family services paid $50,830. Offices of other health practitioners were the best payers, with an average annual salary of $51,900.

Location Important

The state in which a surgical tech practices may be one of the most important determinants in her wages, according to the BLS. Salaries in the top five states were at least $9,000 a year more than the national average. Connecticut, Hawaii, Alaska, Nevada and California topped the list of states in 2012. Connecticut, the only eastern state in the top five, paid $52,830. Surgical techs in Hawaii earned $53,440, and those who worked in Alaska made $53,640. Nevada surgical technologists earned $53,990. California, the highest-paying state, paid $54,750. The top-paying metropolitan area of Vallejo-Fairfield, in California, easily outstripped all states and other localities, with an average annual salary of $70,520 in 2012.


Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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